Archive for Books ‘n’ such

Impressions of: Gardens of the Moon

Friends are people you trust, people that try to be nice to you. Friends are not people that make you read a book that gives you a headache.

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Doesn’t it need a few more plants to be a garden?

A friend of mine told me to read this book, he said it was awesome, better than food, that I would either love or hate it (take note here dear readers, this last piece of information is a good indication that something might be iffy with what you are being “sold”).

But he was wrong, oh, so very wrong. I didn’t hate or love it; I just liked it, a 6/10. Now I don’t think it was a bad book, it had moments of brilliance, especially a character introduced later on, called Kruppe, he was fantastic. In fact, many of the characters in this book are interesting and fun to read about, even if we don’t get to know them enough to call them acquaintances. Then where is the problems/lack of excellence that makes it into a 6/10 instead of a 10/10?

There are four main problems in this book, according to me, the first is: What the heck is even happening?!

I am able to find the thread which is this book’s main plot (even though it took a while) fairly easily, but at the same time we get to know about 3-4 other bigger plots, that are on a world level, while the main plot of Gardens of the Moon is on a group/country level. Mostly group. Furthermore, there is the problem of characters acting all “YOLO” and doing whatever they please for seemingly no reason, but to be fair it isn’t very common.

The second problem: Where did that come from and stop pulling things from Uranus!?

When I read this book one of my most common thoughts was “where the hell did that/this come from?”. If I had a dollar for every time I thought that I would have at least 50$, which wouldn’t get me a ticket to the Bahamas, but the next town over and a change of scenery is always nice. However unserious that was this is a real problem I believe. The reader shouldn’t constantly feel like almost anything could jump out behind the next corner, at least not in this kind of book. Had it taken place in a surreal dream world, than by all means, throw crazy at me all the time, but this is a serious, albeit fictional, world with what I guess are strict rules.

Problem number three: Who was that again?

Okay, this one is also one of the strengths of the book and the world but when you are first introduced to this universe it is annoying beyond belief. What am I talking about, I’m talking about names. Everybody and their grandma have about 20+ names which the author decides to switch between now and then. Sometimes it’s used to great effect when you think it is a completely new character we’ve been following but is actually someone we know just going by a different alias. Alas, it can be cool and the world is kind of sort of built around this practice but it is irritating when you have to learn over 9000 names just to follow the basic happenings from one page to the next.

Fourth of the problems: I know nothing about this place!

Right from the outset I understood that this is a grand and complex world that the story will take place in. A bit too grand and complex one might say. This is the mother of all the problems, at least all the ones I have called out. As you read the book, the grandeur of the world slowly dawns on you and you see that there are bigger things at stake and far from every card has touched the table. Big and complex worlds are not bad in and of themselves, but when you as the reader are thrown right into them with little to no explanation it makes your brain fry. It’s overwhelming. Normally you as the reader have a mug that can be filled with new information. This mug can hold about 10-11 ounces of new information, and then you need to drink it and contemplate over it during a sunset in a rocking chair. Sometimes Gardens of the Moon gives you the right amount of information, sometimes it gives you a tsunami.

Even though I have problems with the book I still feel like I should give the next one a chance. However, if that one doesn’t get a good grip on me then I’m out here.

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Metaphors?

Why do we use metaphors? We could just plainly state what we want to say or write. “He kissed the girl”

See, that wasn’t so hard. Now there is no confusion. But seriously, why do we use them. A metaphor could just become waste of space and ink in story, the bad ones at least. A good metaphor enhances events, or rather the description of them. If we take the example, “He kissed the girl” and add “like a mother kisses her child”, the kiss will be totally different.

We use metaphors to enhance a event/description/thingymajingy by calling upon a “common” source of knowledge. Another example: “His eyes, brown as a young doe’s, sparkled in the light”. So here I used a metaphor (or maybe it is a simile, not totally sure, English is hard sometimes) to describe the color of a person eyes. I could have written, light brown instead, but because I used “[…] as a young doe’s […]” I call upon a common source of knowledge. By common I mean knowledge that most people should know, just to clarify. A person who reads this will probably think that his eyes are very beautiful and maybe innocent looking, because of what we associate does with, now for another example, but this time of a “bad” metaphor.

“His eyes, brown as a cesspool, sparkled in the light”. If this was used to describe beautiful eyes… it failed miserably. It would probably be a bad metaphor to use in most situations when describing the color brown, unless of course you want a disgusting brown. Than it would be a good metaphor.

Why do I ask why we use metaphors? Because I think that you should question how things work, even if they are the right way to do something. ‘Cause if you do you might just learn something, like how metaphors work. Also I do it because I’m interested in storytelling and narrative and such fancy stuffs.

Enough of a detour, if we go back to the first example: “He kissed the girl”, this might seem like very plain thing to write. You could spice it up a notch or two by writing “He made love to her face with his orifice” or “He tasted her lips, warm with blood and sweet from cotton candy”. These two ways of writing “He kissed the girl” spice things up, creates some dynamic to the event and also sets a certain tone to the whole thing… and it is also the reason why “He kissed the girl” can be a very good way to describe the event. If for example, the story is from the “He’s” perspective and it just says: “He kissed the girl” and nothing more is added. It can give us readers something to think about and some smart depth. Was it so that he actually didn’t think the kiss was anything special, maybe he doesn’t love this girl that he kissed. That is the problem with writing, there is no right way to do things, how bothersome… well not really, but since no real “right or wrong” exist, how will you know that what you write is “right”? (Dunno, don’t care, give me more chocolate)

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Joyland

It was a little while ago I finished reading Joyland (2013) by Stephen King (he sure do have a cool surname). It was a good read, like all the other books I mentioned yet… (I need a bigger vocabulary (that or I am trapped in Newspeak)).

Well to be fair, it was okey. It was not bad, nor was it a book I would instantly recommend to a friend. So this book is a Murder Mystery, a fact I forgott about a third in to the book and then reminded of when only the last 50-70 pages was left. This might be an exaggeration but I did actually forget that the book was about a unsolved murder whilst reading it.

But is that bad? I do not know the to that answer. What I do believe is that if the murder mystery is meant to be the main point of the tale, you might want to push that plot point just a bit more. Though I should be honest, I have not read many murder mysteries so this might be more normal/common than I think it is.

Anyway! What this book do have is a story about growing up. The transition between late teens to grown up life. Which is why it was fun to read, since King knows how to do those kind of stories. How he uses a few “time jumps” to let us know what happens, later on, with characters even though it has “nothing” to do with the story (this is not something uniqe to King but he does it well). Also, I think King likes to have paranormal stuff in all of his tales, even if they are just used as a spice. So should you read it? If you are looking for a thrilling murder mystery, no. Looking for something Stephen King, yes I do think so. It is very Stephen-King-esque, the language, style, the kind of people you “meet”. It is not one of his best works (in my opinion) nor is it one of his worst. It is still King so if you are in to that, go forth I say. Lastly, if you like stories about growing up, you could read it.

(… I don’t even)

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Redshirts must die

Right before christmas I finished the book Redshirts (John Scalzi, 2012). It was a good and lighthearted read. So as the name suggests (at least to those people who have the right cultural heritage (Star Trek)) the book is about “unimportant” and “replacable” people.

When I started my journey into this story I did not know what to expect, Was it going to be an adventure focusing on redshirst as they struggle to remain alive while the “heroes” mess up/saves the day or would it be a comedical tale about some redshirts as they struggled to remain alive whilst their friends died of in brutal and comical ways? But what I got was something a little along these lines but also not. It was a pretty thought provoking tale, about philosphy and second chances. It was not what I had expected or something I would have guessed “in a thousand years”. But I liked it and it was very interesting.

I am sure that people whom are more familiar with Star Trek would appreciat the book even more than I did, since they would understand more of the references. Though I would not say a low knowledge level of the Star Trek universe and series is in anyway a hinderance from enjoying the story, since the “redshirt phenomenom” is something everyone should be familiar with though maybe not in the form of redshirts.

So should you read this book? If you are looking for a easy and quick read, like Star Trek, philosphy and the deconstruction of narrative tropes, than yes you should. Even if you do not fill all of the criterias I listed but only a few I would still say you should read it.

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Newspeak: How to be good

In my last post I spoke a little about the book 1984, I also gave you readers an “exercise. Too speak Newspeak for a whole day.

Newspeak is a way to mentaly control people, it further enhances the idea that “If you control the past, you control the future”. In 1984, the Party (the bad guys) is constantly changing all records of past events, they have a whole department only working on with this, to make sure that the Party is never wrong. For exempel, they say that they are at war with Eastasia and allies with Euroasia, but when the alligences change, the change all the records so that they are at war with Euroasia and allies with Eastasia.

But retconning everything constanly, people can only use their memory to prove things were different. But memories can fade, and when written recrods and the ruling body states that you are wrong how can you be sure that you actually are not wrong? So what does all this retconning actually do, it makes it impossible for people to compare things. Which is the main purpous of Newspeak (according to me).

In newspeak, the word bad does not exist. What does exist is the word good. But people will still want to say that things are bad, so how do they do that if they cannot say bad. They say it is “ungood” and if it is something very bad you say “doubleplusungood”. If something is better than good it is “plusgood” and if it is even better it is “doubleplusgood”. What happens is that there is no way to actually differentiat between the different good and “ungood”. If something is good, well then it is good. But good is in and of itself a very “broad word”, good can range from “it was okey” to “it made me feel excellent”. But they do have ways to strenghten the word good. Yes, that is true, but how much better is “plusgood” than good? I do not know. Or how much better is “doubleplusgood” than good? It is better than “plusgood” but that does not help us at all, since the word good is to vauge and it makes it impossible to compare the “goodness” of things.

The same thing happens with “ungood”. What is “ungood”, well it is not good, but it is not necessarily bad. “Ungood” can be “it was okey”. So when you suddenly cannot truly compare things, everything just becomes a kind of gray indistinguishable mass. If I had seen a movie that feelt like throwing my money into a fire and had to express that in newspeak, I could only say it was “doubleplusungood”. Which is worse than “ungood” but whom ever I said it to could not really figure out how much I disliked it. And in the end, you would become mad since it is impossible to compare things.

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1984

Just finished reading 1984 (1949), also by George Orwell.

I’m not sure what I think of this book. It was a enjoyable read and food for thought. It is interesting to “see” the world Orwell created in 1984. How horribel and cruel it actually is. In the beginning of the book you do understand that Airstrip One is not a place wher you would like to live and you see understand to some extent the grandeur of the monotoring of the population. But it is not until the last part of the book you truly understand the true insanity of the system which the protaganist lives in.

If you are looking for a dystopian tale or a story that shows the “true” extrems of a surveillance society, than you should read this book.

What Orwell in my opinion truly succeds with in this story is the extinguishing of hope. All through out the story I was rooting for Winston, the protagonist, and hoped that he could have some kind of happy ending. Even when things turned sour (like 1pH) I stille hoped for some light at the end of the tunnel, that Winston would in some way be triumphant over the Party (the Party is the ruling body of Airstrip One and the rest of Oceania). But as the hope in Winston dies, so does it in yourself and (at least in me) a feeling of meaninglessness came over me.

I liked Animal Farm better then 1984, it might be because it is not as extrem nor as bleak. Not that I have anything against a bad/sad endning, but 1984 is very bleak in a special way.

Also, if you, the people who reads this would like to do a “pshycological experiment” try with a friend or two during one day only speak in newspeak. The “language” used by the Party in 1984.

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More Animal Farm

So as I mentioned in my previous post I liked the book Animal Farm and it helped me get a better understanding of the atroicities and cruelty that was the Sovjet Union. What happens in the book is that the animals of a farm one day rebel against the human owning it since they feel he abuses them.

Shortly after the rebellion/revolution the pigs which have learned to read becomes leaders for the rest of the animals and handels much of the planning, since they are the smart ones. This is were it quickly starts going south for the other animals. In the beginning of the revolution, the pigs try to teach the other animals how to read but most of the can not even learne the whole alphabet. Which makes it hard to read, why this is important is because after the animals had gotten rid of theire oppressor, they write seven commandments on the barn wall, which shall be the rules the animals shall live by.

But since only the pigs can read and they are the leaders, the ones with the power, the can abuse theire knowledge to fool the other animals. This is the part that really got to me, how the ones in power abused the other animals lack reading skills to slowly change the rules. And that kind of power abuse is according to me one of the worst kinds and it shows how powerful a tool knowledge is, especially against someone who does not have any knowledge in the area or can not prove theire own knoweldge.

The sad part in the story is how the animals, which can not read, feel that something might have changed with the rules but since they can not read they simply have to trust the pigs and accept what they are saying.

So the moral of the story, it is bad being illiterate.

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